It might be Frankie Dettori’s farewell tour but he is producing some of his finest work and an 80th Royal Ascot winner came his way when Porta Fortuna obliged in the Group 3 Albany Stakes.
The filly provided trainer Donnacha O’Brien with a memorable first winner at the meeting, but it was hard not to escape Frankie fever as he entered the winner’s enclosure bellowing: “Eighty! Eighty!”
Dettori, who collected his prize with daughter Mia, had been given a chance of reaching the milestone after O’Brien’s stable jockey Gavin Ryan elected to ride stablemate Do It With Style, who was 13th of the 17 runners.
If Ryan was, understandably, glum after the six-furlong Group 3 race, Dettori was beaming.
He said: “Eighty winners at Royal Ascot—unbelievable! I’ve fulfilled my dream. Ascot has always been special to me, I love it so much, and to reach 80 winners is incredible. I’m only thinking about the next race now, but I’m enjoying the moment.”
Dettori, who last won the Albany in 2006 on the Jeremy Noseda-trained Sander Camillo, is set to retire at the end of the year and rode his third winner of the week after Gregory in the Queen’s Vase and Courage Mon Ami in the Gold Cup.
“One-hundred percent I wanted to get to the 80 winners,” he added. “I thought, ‘God, I’ve got to get three,’ but it is easier said than done. Now I have done it, yes! It’s a big number!”
Unbeaten in two starts beforehand, Porta Fortuna was prominent and still traveling best of the 17-runner field at the two-furlong pole before being cut loose by Dettori.
She hit the front with a furlong left to run and won by a length going away.
Porta Fortuna, who returned at 5-1 on site and paid $12.30 to win in pari-mutuel wagering offered on the race in the United States, was bred by Donnacha O’Brien’s parents Annemarie and Aidan, who saddled Matrika to be second, while George Boughey-trained Soprano was third, one place ahead of Persian Dreamer.
“She’s a very smart filly, and big congratulations to all the owners, they spotted her potential early and bought into her and the plan was to come here and it is great that it has come off,” said Donnacha O’Brien, the former rider who started training in 2020 and whose biggest victory came three years ago when Fancy Blue won the Prix de Diane (French Oaks). “She traveled really well, she quickened smartly but she kept going to the line well. She’s just a very smart filly.”
The young O’Brien joins his father, Aidan, and brother, Joseph, in having a winner at Royal Ascot.
“It’s very special,” Donnacha O’Brien said. “I don’t know how many seconds I had here as a jockey, but it’s a very hard place to get winners and I’m very grateful to get one. It’s a lot more special training winners than riding them as a lot goes into it — you’re not just getting the leg up before the race — although there are a lot more ways you can mess it up!”
Porta Fortuna is owned by American partners Medallion Racing, which is operated by Taylor Made Farm; Barry Fowler; Steve Weston; and, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, headed by Dean Reeves. The 2-year-old daughter of Caravaggio out of the Holy Roman Emperor winner Too Precious was bred in Ireland by Aidan and Annemarie’s Whisperview Trading.
“This is unbelievable. We all have been fortunate to win big races but there is nothing quite like this in American racing. It is impossible to describe the feeling,” Phillip Shelton, Medallion Racing’s racing manager, told FanDuel TV following the win. “We have found the [European] pedigrees can suit the firm ground in America when you find the right horse. We also love coming over here to race and getting to know the O’Brien family.”
Shelton found Porta Fortuna after her debut win at the Curragh April 16.
“We are constantly evaluating horses in America and Europe which accommodate what we want to do and that is win on the big stage,” Shelton told FanDuel TV. “We were originally looking for a horse to finish second for the ‘Ship and Win’ at Del Mar but this filly was so impressive, we tried to get a deal done. We were fortunate to have Steve come on board, and we have been trying to partner with Dean for a long time but the right opportunity had not come about.”
Reeves described the victory as “a lifetime win that might never happen again.”
“What a filly and a great ride by Frankie Dettori, it all came together,” he told FanDuel TV.
A heavy ground winner at the Curragh on her debut over five furlongs, Porta Fortuna took the step up in trip and class in her stride when landing the Group 3 Irish E.B.F. Fillies Sprint Stakes at Naas last month for her new American owners, who then targeted the Albany.
Plans could include a trip to the Breeders’ Cup this fall at Santa Anita Park, according to O’Brien.
“Gavin had the choice and he picked the other filly,” added Donnacha O’Brien. “We had to go and find another jockey and Frankie wasn’t a bad substitute to get. Frankie is unbelievable — one of the best ever — and we were delighted to get him. When he’s on board you don’t say anything apart from tell him about the filly and let him off — he’s a very special rider.”
Special indeed and there are now 80 reasons why that is undoubtedly the case.—James Burn/Racing Post